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CBS threatens to sue Aereo again, this time in Boston

CBS threatens to sue Aereo again, this time in Boston


Just hours after Aereo announces it will launch operations in Boston, a CBS executive says the company will file suit to stop it.

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Aereo antennas
Aereo antennas

CBS indicated today in a heated Twitter post from one of the company's public relations executives that the media giant intends to file another copyright complaint against Aereo — this time in Boston. Aereo uses the internet to connect TV viewers to tiny antennas housed at the company's facilities and enables them to watch over-the-air broadcasts on web-connected devices. The company is accused in lawsuits filed by CBS and many of the nation's other top broadcasters of stealing their over-the-air programming.

Dana McClintock, executive vice president of communications for CBS, made the comments during a Twitter exchange with Rich Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG Research and Ben Popper, a Verge editor. Greenfield had noted that Aereo announced that it plans to launch operations in Boston on May 15th and asked whether CBS plans to sue in that city or wait until the broadcasters' current case against Aereo in New York is resolved. McClintock cleared that up right away. "We will sue," McClintock wrote to Greenfield. "Stealing our signal will be found to be illegal in Boston, just as it will be everywhere else."

Does McClintock mean everywhere else but New York or in federal court where the broadcasters have already suffered two courtroom setbacks? A federal district judge in Manhattan as well as an appeals panel were asked by the broadcasters to issue a preliminary injunction against Aereo. Two separate courts heard the evidence and decided that the plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail.

"Stealing our signal will be found to be illegal in Boston, just as it will be everywhere else"

The TV broadcasters say they're in a fight for their lives. According to them, if Aereo is allowed to distribute their programming without paying for it then the cable companies won't pay either. The broadcasters will lose the retransmission fees that they say are vital to their survival. CBS and Fox have threatened to pull their broadcasts from the free airwaves because of Aereo. After Popper noted that CBS' signals were not being stolen and that the public owned the airwaves, McClintock responded: "Yet it's ok for Aereo to profit from the same public. Hmmm..."

Greenfield got in a zinger by noting the similarities between Aereo and Amazon's services. "Amazon 'makes money'" Greenfield wrote on Twitter, "on selling antennas to watch broadcast TV, and they ship to Boston."

Aereo and other tech companies say the networks just want to stifle competition. The TV networks that are suing Aereo, which also include NBC, ABC, and Fox, have vowed to keep fighting. They have also begun waging a public relations campaign against Aereo, and McClintock’s tweet is part and parcel to the aggressive rhetoric they have used so far. CBS declined to make any further comment.